The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest has awarded the title of Romanian Women of Courage to seven women this year to honour their activity in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress.
“Romania has so many extraordinary women of courage that Embassy Bucharest holds its own annual ceremony to recognize them. These women are strong, inspiring leaders who demonstrate unwavering commitment to their communities. So today, the Embassy will recognize seven Romanian women of courage, including our International Woman of Courage nominee for Romania for 2019,” reads a press release by the embassy.
“I am delighted you could all join us to celebrate seven Romanian women who embody service, leadership, and, above all else, courage. While these women each devote their energies to different issues facing Romania, they all serve as inspiring reminders of how determined individuals can make a difference and effect lasting change in their communities and across their country,” stated US Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm at the award ceremony.
The main honoree was Irina Novac, a former high school student from Aiud, involved in supporting women and other minority groups in Romania. “Courage comes in many forms. Sometimes courage is the result of a long lifetime of experience and determination, and sometimes it is the result of youthful energy and optimism for the future. This latter type of courage is exemplified by Irina, who was a high school student in Adjud when she and her friends resisted intense pressure to forego supporting women and other minority groups in Romania”.
After taking part in the Future Leaders Exchange, or FLEX, program, spending a year studying in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2016, Irina returned to Romania and received a grant from the State Department, through American Councils, the FLEX implementing partner, to put together a conference, “Women Talk,” bringing together young women and men from her region to hear from professionals and experts on the challenges women and girls face and how to address these issues. One of the panelists she invited was a transgender person.
That prompted a backlash from the local community, with religious, academic and political leaders, teachers and ordinary people accusing her of being “part of an American plot to undermine traditional Romanian values”.
“Despite all of this, Irina continues actively supporting the rights of women and girls, including recently organizing a film festival dedicated to important women forgotten by history.
For her perseverance in promoting women’s and girls’ rights in the face of strong public pressure against her, we believe Irina exemplifies the ideal Woman of Courage,” ambassador Klemm argued.
Other nominee is Carmen Dumitrescu, investigative journalist in local media based in Teleorman, famous for her articles and investigations documenting corruption in Romania.
Among the other nominees, there were Melania Medeleanu, the “mother” of MagicCamp and MagicHome, Carmen Uscatu and Oana Gheorghiu, founders of Give Life Association (Asociația Dăruiește Viața), as well as Iustina Ionescu and Romanița Iordache, two leading legal experts and advocates for the human rights of LGBTI persons.
Read more about all the nominees here.